The main demographic to turn out for William Shatner’s 19-perf Broadway run in “Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It” would seem to be Trekkies: Here’s Captain Kirk, live and in person, and any mention of “Star Trek” or one of its familiar sound effects brings cheers from the faithful. That said, there’s more to Shatner than his iconic sci-fi stint, which ran for three seasons of a 60-year career. His new solo stage act might be pulled together from anecdotal scraps, but it gets by with humor and good-natured charm.
Rather than fading into the shadows after his one big gig, Shatner has continually reinvented himself, mostly with humor (as in a decade of advertisements for Priceline.com). “Shatner’s World” showcases a few surprising angles of that humor: For starters, the star launches into a series of Jewish mother jokes and a few rabbi jokes as well. He hails from Montreal, the dutiful son of a haberdasher with Mittel-European roots. At his father’s funeral, he tells his sister that Dad would be proud that he got a good price on the coffin. “What, is it used?” she fires back.
If that joke sounds like a retread, so be it; so does a good deal of the material. Shatner’s world whizzes by like a carnival wheel; when the wheel stops, we get a seemingly random but clearly scripted anecdote about this or that. But he’s plenty charming about it, and if he has extended his career by turning his persona into a caricature, his perf in “Shatner’s World” suggests this might have been a canny acting choice.
He survived the inevitable post-“Trek” dark days, he says, by being open to trying other things. These include his pitchman career plus a couple of indescribable recordings (of which we get a dollop, and you can buy CDs on the way out).
Production design encompasses just a few simple elements. Shatner works in front of a large projection screen, with his only performance aid being a rolling armchair on which he sits or reclines (working the gears like an old Chevrolet), and at one point dances with. The sides of the stage have cocktail tables with bar chairs and props (cigar in ashtray, half-filled glass of scotch); at the performance attended, Shatner never went near them.
Show is derived from years of personal-appearance tours. The star and his director, Scott Faris, have come up with a low-key and comfortable vehicle that Shatner should be able to take to theaters, casinos, special events and anywhere Trekkies still roam.